Riesling is the world's most versatile wine. It goes well with a wide range of food, from pork -- notoriously hard to pair with wine -- to spicy Asian cuisine or Pacific Rim fusion fare.
It grows well in France, Germany, Austria, and the New World and is usually labeled by grape name, even in France, where it is dogma to name the best wines by location instead. (The French frequently also put the name of the vineyard on the label).
Despite these attributes, riesling remains underappreciated because its extraordinary range, from the enamel-cleansing version of Alsace to the sweeter style of Germany, confuses consumers, who don't know whether they are opening a dry wine or a sweet one.
Riesling also needs to overcome its reputation as being only a sweet wine. Certainly some are, but those from Alsace, their tall, slender, green German-like bottles notwithstanding, are not. Riesling from Alsace is a fundamentally different wine -- dry with more body -- from riesling produced in Germany, barely 20 miles further east.
The Alsace vineyards comprise a 2- to 4-mile strip that runs from Strasbourg in the north practically to the Swiss border, south of Colmar. Protected from severe weather by the Vosges Mountains to the west, the grapes can ripen beautifully to produce full, rich wines.
The Becker family, located in Alsace since1610, started a wine company in 1848 in Zellenberg, a village just north of Colmar and an area renowned for riesling. Members of the 13th generation of Beckers run the estate: Jean Philippe is the winemaker, Francois is the viticulturist, and Martine handles sales and marketing. Ten of their 40 acres include some of Alsace's most famous vineyards, like Froehn, Sporen, and Schoenenberg, from which they make outstanding riesling. They also make a delightful riesling from grapes grown on less-exalted soil, labeled simply Riesling d'Alsace.
Unencumbered by oakiness, their 2002 version is lively and bone dry. Its fruitiness, coupled with refreshing acidity, makes it an ideal foil for roast pork, but it's priced so you can also enjoy it with take-out Chinese.